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May 28, 2015

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Nevada lawmakers applaud panel’s nuclear-waste recommendations

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SUN FILE PHOTO

A train operator waits for passengers at the Yucca Mountain Exploratory Studies Facility in 2006.

In its final report released Thursday, the Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear waste management endorsed the idea of a geological repository for spent nuclear fuel, and said the lack of development at Yucca Mountain was a sign of a troubled national nuclear waste policy.

They also said the siting process for such a repository should be “consent-driven.”

Nevada lawmakers who have fought to stop the development of a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain for years opted to take the latter conclusion to heart as the guiding one, and praised the report.

“The Yucca Mountain project failed and is now a relic of the past,” Sen. Harry Reid said. “Most importantly, this report makes abundantly clear that no state, tribe or community should be forced to store spent nuclear fuel or high-level waste without its express consent.”

“The Blue Ribbon Commission is making an effort to solve the difficult issues surrounding spent fuel and radioactive material disposal,” Sen. Dean Heller said. “This report provides a path forward for safe, responsible nuclear waste storage so the nation can move beyond Yucca Mountain once and for all.”

“The changes in nuclear waste policy called for by the commission will lift a threat to Nevada’s future that has hung like a dark cloud over the Silver State for decades,” Rep. Shelley Berkley said. “These findings represent a stark warning about the need to move forward immediately on securing nuclear waste at existing reactor sites in dry cask storage as I have advocated for years.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office expressed a slightly more reserved, but also positive response.

“Overall, we’re pleased,” said Robert Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.

Nevada had asked for language that recommended “voluntary siting” for a spent nuclear fuel storage facility — the commissioners opted for “consent-based siting.” In addition, the Western Governors’ Association had argued that building such a facility would require the written consent of the state’s governor.

“(The task force) hasn’t quite gone that far. That’s detail they should have gone further on,” Halstead said.

The report even got the thumbs-up of a Republican presidential candidate — though his praise for the commission didn’t extend to the president who formed it.

“Gov. Romney is pleased to see that the commission’s recommendations align with the approach that he has advocated,” said Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Mitt Romney. “The nation must reject President Obama’s politicization of the issue and allow Yucca Mountain or any other potential site to be judged on the basis of sound science. But no state should be forced to accept the nation’s nuclear waste against its will.

“Instead, the federal government should offer Nevada terms that would make acceptance of the site attractive,” Romney’s spokesman continued. “If the people of Nevada do not want the site, then the federal government should allow other states to identify potential sites and bid for the terms on which they would accept the waste.”

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